Education - Letter: Section 11 money

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Last school term the Home Office sponsored a consultation on the future of Section 11 (Education) - the regulations which provide educational support for children whose first language is not English. It was directed at workers in the field, representatives from schools, community leaders and also at the pupils themselves.

There is still no sign that a report on the consultation is to be published. What we do know is that the funds allocated to Section 11 are to be transferred from the Home Office to the Department for Education and Employment (DFEE). The Government's apparent reluctance to enter the topic for wider debate gives rise to fears about the DFEE's intentions. The mood of the consultation's respondents is clear. The DFEE must not allocate Section 11 money directly to schools, which may decide to spend it on some of other perceived shortages. It should be ring-fenced, or we are back to the bad old days of the Seventies.

The responses gave overwhelming support for its distribution by local education authorities, whose central services would be most effective in ensuring the appropriate delivery and allocation of resources. LEAs have an overview which allows them to distribute funds fairly, to be flexible to changing needs and to prevent the misuse of money intended for this vitally important work. New Labour should be aware that its much-flaunted banner of social and educational inclusion would look tattered indeed if a misjudged Section 11 policy had the effect of making invisible those children, predominantly from ethnic minorities, who presently benefit.

Greta Sandler

London, SE26